That New Animal

that new animal That New AnimalHere’s another picture book for our second class. There are lots of books out there that tackle an emotional issue in a heavy handed way. I’m not a fan of those books, but I love this one. What do you think? Does it accomplish its goal? Would it appeal to a child in a similar situation? How does it avoid sounding preachy — or does it? And what do you make of the ugly baby?

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Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the designer and production manager for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.

Comments

  1. Anna Weerasinghe says:

    I laughed a lot reading this book. I loved the way that it turned a common (and often emotionally stressful) issue – gaining a new family member – on its head by telling the story from the perspective of the family pets! I was particularly impressed by how the author carefully distinguished between the voices and actions of Marshmallow and FudgeFudge. It would have been so easy for Jenkins to just write the story from a “dog’s point of view,” but she went one step further and wrote from the point of view of two very particular dogs. This is, in my opinion, what makes the book’s handling of the central emotional issue so great – these dogs are real characters with unique, conflicting feelings and thoughts about the new animal, just as a child might feel about a new sibling. The art was fantastic too. I thought it was brilliant how the illustration of the two dogs makes it immediately clear which one is Marshmallow and which one FudgeFudge, without any tedious introductions. As for the ugly baby, well…new babies aren’t always attractive. And from the perspective of a child (or dog) there’s not much to recommend babies: they can’t talk or play or do anything. They’re not even pretty! So naturally, the dogs aren’t going to think the baby is nice-looking. I think the book avoids sounding preachy in particular by allowing the dogs to continue to have mixed feelings about the baby, even as the newness wears off and they begin to feel protective of “their” animal. This feels very real to me, and it avoids the problem of making a child feel guilty or ashamed of his or her (maybe not so positive) feelings towards his or her new (or maybe not so new) sibling.

  2. Abigail Russo says:

    All of this week’s books were wonderful, but given that my nephew was born today it seemed apropos to discuss a book on new babies!

    Like Anna, I thought the author did a wonderful job of characterizing the dogs in the story. The characterization of animals, the humor, and the playful tone throughout made the book very readable while still conveying a message about accepting someone new into the family. The illustration was beautiful- the text and the pictures function well together, especially on places where the two seem almost merged (a stern finger pointing at the dog but also drawing the reader to the text, etc.).

    I see that book as particularly engaging when read aloud to children. So much different characterization can be put into the dialogue and descriptions that I think a child would find very intriguing. I know I did!

  3. Kim Fernandes says:

    I’m in agreement with Anna and Abigail — FudgeFudge and Marshmallow are two very distinct dogs, and the author does a great job of developing their individual characters. I particularly enjoyed the display of loyalty when the grandfather came to see the baby — it was interesting to hear such honest voices about the appearance and odor of the baby, but then also to see quickly how the dogs realized that their loyalties lay with their own new animal, regardless of how ugly it happened to be. I think the book does a great job of using the dogs as characters to voice all the not-nice thoughts about a new baby that a young child may well be feeling, but also to drive home a message of acceptance.

  4. Sarah Cooper says:

    I think the author avoided sounding preachy by acknowledging that it takes time for everyone to adjust to a new arrival and to get a new rhythm going in the family dynamic. Having FudgeFudge and Marshmallow voice honest and negative thoughts about the new baby would show an older sibling that it was okay to have these thoughts (though I would hope that older siblings would not go so far as to pee on the floor to stake their territory!) I also liked how the author showed that eventually, after the initial chaotic homecoming, Marshmallow and FudgeFudge regained some of the attention from their “parents” and were able to enjoy games of fetch and tummy rubs, and even came to a somewhat peaceful coexistence with the baby. I think this book would be an effective way to open up classroom dialogue about change, and how different people and animals can react to change.

  5. Sarah Thompson says:

    At first glance, this book has the potential to be filled with cliche–something which I have become incredibly sensitive to and generally tired of in children’s literature. I agree with Lolly and my classmates, however, that this story somehow avoids all of the potential traps that would take it down that heavily populated road. I attribute this in part to a central message that has been very creatively diffused in several layers–first, by using the perspective of a dog rather than another human sibling, and second, by using two dogs with two perspectives that sometimes align and sometimes clash. Very well done.

    • Norah Rivera says:

      I agree with Sarah and the rest of my classmates. I found this book to be very funny, entertaining, and surprising. At first, I was expecting it to be a regular story about a new sibling in the family. However, I was plesantly surprised to find out that it was written from the perspective of the dogs. I think the story deals with issues that are common in the lives of children. But, presenting the narrative from a different perspective adds richness and complexity to the story. Furthermore, I believe this book can be a great classroom resource for teaching perspective-taking and engaing children in analyzing text from different points of view.

  6. Luisa Sparrow says:

    This book’s use of animals as the main characters made for a fun, light-hearted approach to a sticky issue. Animals are relatable, but different enough that we can see their situation from a more objective perspective, which can allow us to see situations in a more balanced way. I think children who are new older siblings would love this book! I also love the little “post-script” at the end, which shows a scene of the mother pregnant for a second time, and the former “new animal” perhaps getting ready to be in a situation similar to that of Marshmallow and Fudge at the beginning of the story. Regarding the ugly baby–as Anna mentioned above, new babies are often kind of funny-looking. But the baby seemed to grow cuter as the book went on, so maybe the baby’s appearance in each section of the book was a reflection of how the dogs viewed it over time.

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